Export of canned tuna down

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/24 April) — Canned tuna remained the top export earner for Southwestern Mindanao last year, but the flagship product’s sales dropped by 7%, from P204 million in 2009 to $189 million in 2010, a regional export performance report of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) showed.

The volume of canned tuna products shipped abroad was only 76 million kilograms  in 2010, down from 83 million the previous year, the DTI report said.

Stakeholders in the local tuna industry had earlier predicted a lackluster performance after the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) banned purse seine fishing method in tuna-rich pockets of the Pacific Ocean.

The two-year ban took effect on January 1, 2010 as a conservation measure to allow bigeye and yellowfin tuna to recover.

Malcolm Sarmiento, Jr., director general of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, said in a position paper to a WCPFC conference in December that the economic losses brought about by the purse seine ban to the tuna industry has reached $115 million.

“This has significantly affected the local economy, prompting the national government to provide emergency assistance to the affected families,” Sarmiento said.

He noted that 9,000 workers have lost their jobs in the local fishing industry as a result of the purse seine ban in the Pacific Ocean’s High Seas Pockets 1 and 2.

Ma. Gloria Tango, regional director of the Department of Labor and Employment, said her agency has extended at least P3.6 million to nearly a thousand displaced workers.

The banned fishing method employs boats with massive nets that ensnare schools of fish, including juveniles. The ban exempts handline fishing, which is more selective and therefore considered sustainable.

Bayani Fredeluces, executive director of the Socsksargen Federation of Fishing and Allied Industries, Inc., said local tuna industry players are opposing plans to extend the purse seine ban beyond 2011, to allow local tuna companies to recover.

The European Union and the United States are among the largest importers of canned tuna from this city dubbed “Tuna Capital of the Philippines.” The city hosts six of the country’s seven tuna canneries.

Next to canned tuna, canned pineapple, which Dole Philippines, Inc. produces, was the region’s biggest export last year with a value of $158 million from a volume of 250 million kg. In 2009, canned pineapple exports reach $150 million, from a volume of 230 million kg.

The total value of the top 15 products exported from Southwestern Mindanao in 2010 stood at $632 million, up by $90 million from the $542 million posted in 2009.

The region also exports fresh chilled whole tuna, fresh pineapple, crude coconut oil, metal scrap, dried fruits, and scrap copper wire, among others. (Bong S. Sarmiento/MindaNews)